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Preparation for Mastectomy

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Best of luck to you both for tomorrow's operations. I so understand the feeling of actually looking forward to it - it does seem a strange thing to say and feel but the surgery moves you on in such a big and positive way.

The way things are organised across the country seems to vary so much and everyone appears to have a slightly different experience. I feel so lucky that my hospital has a specialist Breast Unit which is headed up by my wonderful surgeon who specialises in cosmetic, oncoplastic and breast reconstructive surgery. I have seen him and my breast cancer nurse at every appointment and I've never seen anyone else, no oncologist or plastics surgeon. It's worked so well for me and they've always been very open, honest and detailed - good and bad. 

Louise, you mentioned bras. I'm sure you're sorted now but I've been really around the block with this. I'm a standard 38B M&S. I ended up with 40C compression bras from Amoena - I had a 40C zip up post surgery bra from M&S which felt way too tight on the band post surgery and now are too baggy on the cups. The Amoena bras were beautifully soft and very adjustable as things changed - well worth the investment (my BCN gave me a discount code). I'm now finding my usual 38B bras tight on the band so I've gone for some band expanders - not prepared to invest in any more bras until things have completely settled down.

Hope all goes well with your surgeries tomorrow and look forward to hearing from you both when you're feeling up to it.

 

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Really clear and informative. Thank you.

Thursday is mastectomy and DIEP day for me. 

I am almost looking forward to it so that I can start with recuperation and being free of the threat of the op. 

Have prepared as much as I can ... walking like a lunatic and stocking up with things that my friends who have gone through this already ( I have so many) things like...ice packs for the “hot room” so I can keep my head cool... I may spontaneously combust otherwise! Big pants and laxatives! 


I have been reading “the Boudicca within” real women’s experiences of reconstruction. 

so much to learn from each other x

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Hi Susie,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share that, it’s really helpful. I wish you all the best for your continued recovery too. 
I had a SLNB a month ago which went fine and in terms of info the oncology team and my BCNs were great. This time as I’m having immediate implant recon, though my onc will do the mastectomy, the op is organised and led by the plastics dept and they haven’t been as good about information and detail. Questions I’ve asked the specialist recon nurse about e.g., bras, how long I’ll be in, recovery and so on, have just been answered in quite a vague way that I haven’t found super helpful so I’m having to research more on the internet this time as I hate being underprepared. I think it’s so useful to hear directly from those who’ve been through it.

Like you I’m very keen to move on to active treatment. I was also told immediately I needed a mastectomy so that has long been accepted. My nurse told me to prepare for emotion on the day and that may be the case but I feel pretty sure I’ll be okay, the need in me to get this done is currently far stronger than my attachment to my boob. I’ve been told chemo is still a possibility, they will know after analysis, then tamoxifen, which I imagine due to my age at 51 (I’m pre/peri menopausal) will be switched in the not too distant future. 
Thanks again 💐 Louise x

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Hi Louise and Nieve

I wasn't too anxious as I moved closer to my surgery date. I was told in February that I would be having a mastectomy but was sent home with Letrozole due to Covid - I eventually had my operation on 24th July! So, I was strangely looking forward to it and keen to move on with my treatment. 

The biggest difficulty for me was being dropped off at the door by my husband and knowing I wouldn't see him until I was discharged, no visitors allowed at all. I was lucky that my local hospital was pushing these ops out to a private hospital so my experience may have been different to the usual!

I had a skin and nipple saving mastectomy and a sentinel lymph node removed. I had one cut along the underside of my boob and they managed to get the lymph node from there as well. I was in surgery for about 4 hours and in recovery for 3, clearly wasn't keen to wake up - by the time I got back to my room, my husband had called around three times!

The nurses were absolutely brilliant and kept me well dosed up with painkillers every 4 hours - paracetamol and codeine - as well as antibiotics. Apparently they put loads of anaesthetic into the wound as well before they close it all up. To be honest, I felt very little pain. The main difficulty was moving - very stiff in my shoulder and arm and very woozy from the general anesthetic. I couldn't make it to the loo on my own and the nurses were really kind, helping me onto the commode. It took a while to get used to the drain being permanently attached to you and I also had an alarm system on a plastic tube, going into my dressing which was like a thick bit of clingfilm which seemed to be vacuum packed to my boob. Apparently the alarm goes off if the vacuum seal starts to come undone, though this didn't happen to me. I was also under orders to wear a compression bra, day and night, for 6 weeks which wasn't too bad although a bit restrictive on what you could wear - I wore loose, front buttoned blouses most of the time.

I was in for two nights. The first week home was a bit of a blur - very tired and a bit unsteady on my feet. I also had constipation and lost my appetite for a few days. They sent me home with paracetamol, codeine and antibiotics and I was very organised about taking the painkillers, making sure I took them every 4 hours to keep on top of any pain. I only took the paracetamol and I had no breakthrough pain at all, I took the occasional ibuprofen when I felt very achey. Within four weeks I wasn't taking anything other than the occasional ibuprofen.

The drain came out after a week which was wonderful and felt like a major step forward. Then the dressing came off, to be replaced by a waterproof tape which I change every week. Amazingly I had no bruising and I have no scar! I think a lot can depend on the quality of the surgeon you get - my breast cancer nurse has said that my surgeon takes a huge pride in his job so I was very lucky.

The implant is interesting. It's a great match for my other boob and looking into the mirror, they look like a perfect pair - obviously helped by keeping my own skin and nipple. However, it feels very different - still feels like a bit of an alien sat on my chest and so much firmer and, of course, no feeling or sensation there at all. I do think it's still a bit swollen - my surgeon says it could take months to settle into its final shape and size - and my bra sometimes feels very uncomfortable. I'm 6 weeks post surgery now and feel relatively normal and back to my old self. I am generally very achey but think that's the Letrozole which I'll be on for the next 7 years. My shoulder and upper arm are still quite painful and I can't put my arm straight up above my head but I can blow dry my hair and shower ok - I'm doing the exercises and my reach is slowly getting better but it's taking a while.

Overall, the surgery wasn't as scary or as painful as I'd expected and my recovery has been surprisingly quick and easy. I have to remind myself sometimes that I've recently had major surgery. 

I hope this is useful for you as you prepare for your own surgeries and I wish you best of luck.

Susie x

 

 

 

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Hi Nieve, I’m due in this coming Thursday 10th for a right side mastectomy, immediate recon with implant and left side symmetry. Very interested in hearing how others with recent surgery have got on, but I can also let you know too If it would be helpful. I’m not feeling too anxious at the moment, but that’s partly because I feel like I’ve had such a long wait for surgery and now I’m just so relieved I think the relief is overriding my other emotions. I’m definitely feeling more nerves as it gets closer, I don’t know how I’ll be on the day. Louise x

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Hi susie just saw your post, I’m due to have single mastectomy with implant reconstruction in 10 days, feeling very scared and anxious, how did you find it? How was the recovery? Pain? Any tips xx

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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

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Hi Susie

I hope you’re recovering well from your surgery and going from strength to strength. 

Thank you so much for taking time to respond. Core Work it is! The addition of upper body is a great call out - I’d wondered but wasn’t sure. I’ve got 4-5 months to start building some strength and work up flexibility which gives me the start of a plan, I’d better dig out my exercise mat and weights! 

Thanks again xx
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Re: Preparation for Mastectomy

Hello Mrs Kettlebell

Sorry you find yourself on here - but glad you've started your journey and have a plan. Always helps!

I'm six weeks post surgery (one side mastectomy and immediate reconstruction with implant). I'd agree that core strength is useful - my stomach muscles were very useful sitting up in and getting out of bed when I had drains in and when things were still very tender. I'd also suggest plenty of upper body exercises, particularly shoulders and upper arms as these can get pretty stiff, particularly if you have lymph node removal.

Good luck with your chemo, sending hugs

Susie x

 

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Preparation for Mastectomy

Hello all,

Just starting out on my breast cancer journey with Chemo started this week.  I’ll be having a mastectomy in the new year, and whilst yet to work through the reconstruction question, I’d like to start to physically prepare for surgery where I can and within the confines of chemo.

I guess the usual pre surgery advice stands - eat well, manage weight, keep exercising, etc as far as treatment allows. Is there anything else I can start to consider in terms of physical preparation - for instance, I’m guessing having reasonable core strength might be helpful post surgery where movement might be limited? Any advice or shared experienced would be welcomed.  

Thank you xx